Brainstorming in Chelsea
Reuel S. Amdur
Connexions held a focus group session at La Fab in Chelsea on January 18. A handful of people showed up for what to all intents and purposes was a brainstorming session. Leading the session was Paul Brown, assisted by Shelley Heaphy, who served as recorder. They are Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinators for Connexion. People were asked to inscribe first names on cardboard nameplates. It is not clear why last names were kept anonymous, as nothing particular personal was discussed.
The structural format divided the evening into looking at community assets, challenges, and what people would like to see. However, the participation was unconstrained by the format.
English was the language of the meeting and some attention was given to English concerns, while most matters discussed applied to Chelsea in general. With regard to English, people praised Chelsea Council for its bilingualism in practice, in its meetings and in its broad provision of information and services in English.
When discussion opened with Chelsea’s assets, participants noted that there are many opportunities to be active, for example things happening at Meredith Centre, sports, and nature. While there is the opportunity for active transportation, especially walking, concern was expressed about the lack of crossing guards to ensure safety for children going to and from school.
The library was given kudos as a resource for the family, in programs, not just books.
Discussion turned to the plight of the elderly aging in place. How can they get around when they need to go to appointments? The answer: Call Transcollines. They will come to the home or close by. And they are very open to feedback.
Information was seen as a lack. For example, where to find what to do when it is time to wind up an RRSP. There should be something closer than a Service Canada location. Employment information was also as a need. It was noted that people living in Chelsea tend to work elsewhere. Information might help people to find local jobs.
Meeting space was seen as sparce, beyond the Meredith Centre. This lack is even more pointed if the question of accessibility is raised, for wheel chairs, canes, and even baby carriages.
Continuing with the concern for accessibility, it was argued that, while schools promote integration of those with special needs, such is not the case in the wider community.
There was support for copying Ontario’s practice of including a volunteer activity as part of the school learning requirement.
Attention was given to the needs of newcomers. A booklet of services and a return to the old practice of the welcome wagon.
One other note. It was pointed out that not all Chelsea residents are affluent. Attention needs to be given to the needs of the poor.
Photo caption: Shelley Heaphy, Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for Connexions.
Photo credit: Reuel S. Amdur